Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nothing but frustrations

Just yesterday afternoon I had a discussion with Dr MKA Siddiqui on this view, which Ashish has articulated.

I reproduce below extracts from an article Dr Siddiqui had written last year on the “Educational Scenario of Calcutta’s Urdu Speaking Community”.

Muslims constitute about nine hundred thousand individuals, or 20 per cent of the total population of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation area, 80 per cent of whom are Urdu speaking. The total number of boys and girls of school going age in this population is estimated to be 140,000.

The total enrolment figure of boys and girls of this linguistic group in all the 27 recognised school which cater to their educational needs did not exceed 14,663. If all the other kinds of institutions are taken into account we find 5,090 children enrolled in madrasas and approximately 15,000 in maktabs. The total number of enrolment does not exceed 35,000. This means that only 11 per cent of the Urdu speaking boys and girls go to school and if enrolment figures in institutions of all kinds are taken into account, not more than 25 per cent of Urdu speaking boys and girls attend some sort of educational institution. In terms of absolute numbers, 105,000 students belonging to the linguistic group do not attend any school, largely due to extreme dearth of educational institutions.

Out of an approximately total number of 600 to 700 schools in Kolkata Municipal Corporation area there are 43 Urdu medium schools (Junior 16, High 21 & Higher Secondary 6). Only 27 of these schools are recognized and the remaining are unrecognized, while one H.S. and two junior schools are run by the state government. These two junior government schools are over a century old but have not been upgraded till now, nor do we know of any such plan for future.

Incidentally intensive survey of a slum in 1997 showed that percentage of illiteracy was higher than what it had been on the eve of independence in 1947. This is an index of the downward mobility of the community in the field of literacy and much more in the field of education.

In spite of their socio-economic condition there is a burning passion among the decisive bulk of Urdu speaking population to acquire education and educate their children. This, they have been told, is the only way to change their lot. But when they come forward to provide their children the benefit of education, they confront nothing but frustrations.

Thus with merely a glance at the city’s Urdu speaking population one will notice quite a number of difficult problems they are confronted with. These relate to spheres of housing and space, health, economy and education, which deserve attention. It may appear that the very survival of the community, as a self-respecting segment of the society, is at stake. Awareness of the situation is a prerequisite for any action programme.

If this linguistic minority in this great metropolis is to be saved from total disaster it will demand formulation of an action programme in the field of education, and address itself to tasks which require selfless endeavour and considerable amount of sacrifice by relevant sections of the community and the society. It is, however, sad that the dominant socio-political environment is either completely unaware of the socio-enconomic and educational problems of this unfortunate linguistic minority or is determined to treat the problems it faces as unworthy of attention under a policy of ‘strategic deprivation’. It is all the more unfortunate that this significant minority is often deemed as a potential threat to the society, ever ready to provide shelter to imaginary infiltrators and is seen as demanding for educational institutions which breed fundamentalism.

The dominant socio-political leadership may have its own logic in its power game, but raking up issues which are absolutely unreal, perhaps only aiming at maligning the oppressed people, cannot be excused, because instated of encouraging the people in the their struggle for survival, it keeps them in a state of perpetual anxiety and despair, deprived and awe-struck, to keep them under the thumb of the regime in power.

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